CLEARFIELD – An Olanta woman was sentenced to state prison Wednesday for dispensing illegal prescriptions for Oxycodone.
Holly Jean Hipps, 42, of Olanta was charged with acquiring or obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, conspiracy and administration of a controlled substance by a practitioner, all felony charges, and additional drug charges after an investigation into her activity in 2017.
Hipps is accused of writing prescriptions starting in 2011 for Dennis Lee Lingle, 61, of Clearfield and others related to him as well as a former patient at the Discovery House in Clearfield where the staff does not prescribe narcotics and for a co-worker, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Lingle told others he paid Hipps $1,500 for each prescription. Some of these were reportedly written after her Pennsylvania medical license and DEA registration expired on Oct. 31, 2016.
Hipps was formerly employed at the Caring Healthcare Network in Philipsburg in addition to the Discovery House, according to the complaint.
Previously she signed an open plea, leaving her sentence to be decided by the judge. After hearing arguments Wednesday, President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman sentenced her to a total of four to eight years in state prison.
At an earlier sentencing hearing, her attorney, David Hopkins, argued for his client to receive a probation only sentence because she found “herself in a difficult situation” after she wrote one prescription and was threatened to write more or go to jail.
It was her word against his, Hopkins stated. This was not a situation for her “to profit.”
He also claimed that the investigator, Agent Duane Musser of the Attorney General’s office, told him at the preliminary hearing that he didn’t believe Hipps should go to jail.
After further discussion, Ammerman elected to continue the hearing to allow Musser to attend and confirm or deny this unwritten agreement.
On Wednesday, Ammerman questioned Musser about Hopkins’ previous claim.
Musser responded that he didn’t remember saying she shouldn’t go to jail at her preliminary hearing and in fact, barely remembers talking to Hopkins at all. He suggested Ammerman stick with the sentencing guidelines.
Ammerman asked if Musser had heard the defense’s position that she was manipulated and threatened by her co-defendant, Lingle, and people associated with him and she does not think she is responsible.
Musser agreed that he had heard that accusation before.
Hopkins asked him if another person involved with the case had told Musser that he was afraid of Lingle.
Musser said he did, and that this person was threatened by Lingle, who said he would plant drugs in his car and get him arrested.
Musser also answered questions about a previous case in which Dr. Rajendra D. Yande of DuBois was found to be selling prescriptions. Musser described his office as having waiting lines in the parking lot and stated people came from all over to get pills from him.
Yande was sentenced to four to eight years in state prison in 2013, according to court documents.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. asked Musser if Hipps’ case involved thousands of pills and he said yes. With the opioid crisis as bad as it is, Shaw stated he felt the guidelines for this case provided an appropriate sentence.
Shaw argued that Hipps was causing “havoc in the area” as a medical professional giving out pills.
Hopkins responded by saying that she made a mistake becoming associated with Lingle and that he got his “grip into her” and would not let go.
She was concerned for her family and “she had legitimate fear,” he said.
Hopkins argued that Hipps’ case was not like Yande’s, who was selling scripts and the two cases should be looked at individually. He asked Ammerman to give her a county jail sentence or place her in the state intermediate punishment program.
“The guidelines are inappropriate for this woman in this situation,” he said.
When Ammerman asked Hipps if she wanted to say anything, she stated that this started with a favor she was going to do one time and then she got pressured into doing more.
“I became caught in a web,” she said, adding she was afraid to go to the police or to stop.
Lingle is facing charges of conspiracy/acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation and conspiracy/administer of controlled substance by practitioner. His case is still pending.